Larger Range Pneumatics

Hey guys,

So as some of you may know I came from an FRC team and on FRC we are pretty much allowed to use whatever kinds of pneumatics we want as long as they meet a certain spec, and if im correct that rule was relaxed a bit this year.

So I was thinking about our robots and I keep sitting here thinking to myself
“Oh man that would be done really nicely with this… D’OH!, Its not a VEX legal part” And in the thinking of this I was wondering what the community might think of this? I personally would like to see VEX as a distributor of certain parts such as the kits they provide now, but if the teams wanted to expand (and had the resources to do so) they could go higher up the chain to get maybe “custom” pneumatics. And these “custom” pneumatics would have to meet a strict regulation of rules or specs in order to compete.

I thought it might be an interesting discussion/idea. But if this idea was to crazy to do for Middle and High School teams what if College teams were allowed? We are already allowed to use whatever sensor we wish as long as we can get it to interface with the microcontrollers.

Just a thought.

  • Andrew

I think one of the best things about the vex robotics competition is that teams can get up and running fairly quickly. This is primarily due to the relatively low cost of building a robot, and the fact that classroom kits can be used at the highest levels of competition if students are innovative enough. If custom parts were allowed to any great extent it would risk becoming an elitist competition where only the rich teams could compete.

Furthermore, we at AURA are in the process of setting up links with schools in Auckland. We plan to help mentor these schools as we already do with some schools. If we were to separate the rules for the college and high school/middle school divisions by too much (ie so much that the divisions were effectively competing in different competitions) then a lot of the value around sharing ideas and seeing how others solve problems would be lost.

It would be interesting to know what some of the other FRC teams (who understand what vex is about) think of this idea.

The VRC (not the only program/competition that uses Vex equipment) is more like a chess game than a machine shop game. To a very large extent, everyone uses the same (modest cost) physical equipment. To a large extent, what separates teams is the quality of their wetware (their brains and their willingness to constantly learn).

In the VRC, I like the emphasis on improving your use of existing parts instead of on “improving” or replacing those parts.

This doesn’t mean that programs that challenge people to design & build, or choose, parts are bad. It does mean that the cost of participating in the VRC remains within reach for a very large audience and that participants can immerse themselves in the best-use-of-available-materials dimension of STEM.

From the outside looking in, this appears to be why the VRC rules are the way they are. Like chess, what the program teaches is valuable to students, is affordable for students, is feasible to implement without large investments, and has plenty of room for individuality & creativity.

My hunch is that you can expect modest changes in the product line, but you shouldn’t expect radical changes in this aspect of the rules.


As has already been stated, the point of VEX is to make the most out of what you have.
With the case of pneumatics, specifically, our has use lever arms to effectively increase or decrease the stroke length (while changing the force, of course). You could also rig up a ratcheted method to effectively extend the stroke length of the piston, even if it does take a little more time (doing multiple strokes).
Things are these are possible solutions to the pneumatics problem and alternatives to buying cylinders with a longer piston stroke length. You can do a lot more with VEX motors and pneumatics in terms of powering your robot if you use a little time and ingenuity, as opposed to buying bigger parts.

Since this is the “VEX Product Ideas” sub-forum, why don’t you all go ahead and post specific suggestions for what you would like to see as upgrades or extensions to the current VEX pneumatics product offerings?

Well I guess I should categorize into “nice to have” and “REALLY nice to have” I won’t put a must have since a lot of that is already covered and VEX is kind enough to have Pneumatics in their kit!

Nice to have:
-Check valves
-small pressure gage

REALLY Nice to Have:

  • Small Rotatory pneumatics
  • (crazy one) Compressors

I just think it would become very interesting if teams used more pneumatics for their subsystems (yes they are expensive) but granted it can add a lot of capability to robots, Including our own… Going to be scary how many tanks we will have on our bot this year! :smiley:

  • Andrew

Pneumatics? You don’t need no stinkin’ pneumatics! :slight_smile:

Lately I’ve been playing around with some micro linear actuators

They fit the VEX system VERY nicely, plug right in to the VEX controller (okay, you need a double ended jumper, but they’ll send one with your actuator if you ask) and they are programmed just like a standard servo. Instead of left and right, you get fully retracted and fully extended, and 253 stopping points in between.

Not VEX legal, of course… but very cool… and who knows what the future holds.


I agree that this kind of change in what is allowed for pneumatics would be better if it was a college only thing. However I also hold the same belief as 254, with some creativity you can achieve more with pneumatics.

The larger you go with the sizes of the rams, the less use you will get out of the air in your reservoir. Pneumatic rams with longer stokes also become difficult to use in many situations, pivot points become difficult to fit within size dimensions etc. I have used larger pneumatic rams with the vex system and found that the thin steel is very prone to cracking and bending (let alone aluminium) when large forces are applied quickly such is the case with pneumatics.